Barra Tortuguero to Arenal la Fortuna 10 - 16 Dec 2005

Macaws, volcanos, iguanas


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It was another short half-hour flight to the private landing strip at La Fortuna near the Arenal volcano. We rented a 4-wheel drive car for a week and drove north for about 3 and a half hours to the Hacienda Los Inocentes, a charming old farm, now a hotel with swimming pool, pet macaws and horses to ride. The hacienda has beautifully polished old wood floors and our bedroom was on the first floor, looking onto the wide balcony that surrounded the building. On our first evening, I found a small frog in the bathroom. I decided to leave it there as it was rather sweet, but the next time I entered the bathroom, it was in the loo and I was obliged to flush it down, never to be seen again! But that wasn´t the end of our adventures with frogs. We slept with the window to the balcony open and, the following night, a weight landing on Flemming’s ear woke him – and me – up. He flicked the object off with his hand, only to find another dear little frog!
Every morning at breakfast time, the hotel staff also fed the birds and we would see numerous Montezuma oropendula (with long yellow tail – resembling a pendulum - and chestnut body) and white-throated magpie-jays (blue body, long white-tipped tail and long curled crest) fight over the papaya. Occasionally a number of collared aracari (small toucans) would follow to pick up the left-overs. Somehow the flocks of green parrots that flew past the hacienda weren´t interested in the food the staff put out.
The surrounding trees were always full of Montezuma oropendula. The males bowed their heads while making a strange noise, a bit like a bell, to attract the females.
On our first day at the hacienda, we went for a (muddy) walk in their extensive grounds and spotted spider monkeys, and white-ringed flycatchers.
The next day we drove southwest to Santa Rosa national park where we walked amongst strange trees, with a reddish colour, and peeling bark, called either Naked Indian or Sunburnt Tourist (take your pick!). Not much wildlife to be seen there apart from a solitary woodpecker. We moved on to the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Bahía Junquillal – where we enjoyed a swim from a superb beach and saw plenty of wild life: pelicans, ibis, eagles, kingfisher, parrots, frigates, crabs, cormorants, great egrets, sandpipers and an iguana.
After three nights at the Hacienda, we decided it was time to move on. It was pretty rainy there, whereas it was drier on the coast. We headed for Bahia Salinas, where we stayed the night at the Ecoplaya Beach Resort in a beautiful bay with the mountains of Nicaragua on the other side. We went for more walks on the long beach in front of the hotel and enjoyed the spectacle of hundreds of pelicans diving in the water for fish.
The next day we drove south on the Interamericana highway – full of potholes – to Cañas. We lunched on the best ceviche yet at a restaurant by the Corobicí river, run by a Swiss German woman and her Costa Rican husband. We’d intended to make a gentle river rafting trip on the Corobicí, but they told us the river was too dry. They took us to the nearby Rio Tenorio instead and in just a short 2-hour trip we saw an incredible amount of wild life: about 50 iguanas (male and female), storks, howler monkeys, kingfishers, crocodile, herons, otters, ospreys and Jesus Christ lizards, so called because they can run across the water.
On our return to the restaurant, the Swiss woman recommended that we stay at the Hacienda La Pacífica, set well back from the Interamericana highway in a wood. There was more wild life in our bathroom: in addition to a tiny frog on the wall, I felt something touch the top of my foot while showering. I shook it off and looked down to see a little black scorpion! It was lucky I hadn’t stepped on it. We dined in the cosy hotel dining room where we enjoyed the best food and wine that we´d had in Costa Rica, and at very reasonable cost. Altogether “une bonne adresse” as they say in Michelin guides. We even had direct, fast Internet access from our room – almost unheard of in mid-range hotels – and what’s more, it was free!
The next morning we left the Interamericana highway at Cañas and headed for the hills on bumpy dirt track roads, destination Santa Elena (near Monteverde). In spite of seeing more tourists here than the whole time we’d been in Costa Rica, there was only one other person staying at the Vista Verde lodge – a young American woman living in Australia called Cecilia. The reason we opted to stay at the lodge can be guessed from its name. In fine weather there is an awesome view of the (active) Arenal Volcano and lake – and we were extremely lucky to see it all in the clear. This was still the tail end of the wet season and other travellers we’d met all said the volcano was shrouded in cloud during their whole stay, so we timed it just right.
After lunch, we went on a very steep and rather precarious jungle walk beneath the lodge to a waterfall. And that evening, together with Cecilia, we went on a guided jungle walk by torchlight If it hadn’t been for the guide, we probably wouldn’t have spotted much apart from a few agoutis (large rodents that we’d already seen in Guatemala) and the ubiquitous leaf-cutting ants, but he found for us a coati (raccoon-like creature), a tarantula, a sloth high up in the trees, a sleeping bird (I forget the species), and a small brown snake on the branch of a tree, which he assured us was not poisonous.
The night before, Cecilia had woken herself up a few times to look out of the window. She was rewarded with plenty of action from the Arenal volcano which was performing well and nicely in the clear. Encouraged by Cecilia's luck, Flemming woke up a few times that night to check out the view. There was more cloud surrounding the volcano than the previous night but we could still see some red sparks from lava flow.
The next morning we drove on to La Fortuna, where we’d left the plane a week earlier. On the way we were accosted by several coatis, those raccoon-like creatures. The first time we saw one, we stopped the car and opened the door to get out and take a photo. The coati started trying to climb into the car and I had to shoo it away! The cheeky animals are as bad as touts! Some drivers supposedly stop to feed them so they have learnt to 'ambush' the cars.
We stayed at the Hotel Los Lagos, dangerously near the Arenal volcano in the case of a major eruption. There was no such luck although Flemming did get a good close-up view of the red lava spewing out of it that night. I have to admit that sleep was my priority, so I missed the spectacle.

PS. Sorry for the missing photos. They got stolen in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

One of Hacienda los Inocentes' Macaws

The macaws being taken to their day-time perch

Male oropendula doing his bowing trick to attract the females

View of Arenal lake and volcano from Vista Verde Lodge

JAlbum 6.2 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN